QUESTIONER: …[W]hy not just legalize drugs?
Former Drug Czar, General BARRY MCCAFFREY (retired): …[S]ince I’m not in public life, [I can say] I actually don’t care. I care about 6th graders through 12th graders. If you’re 40 years old, and you’re living in Oregon, and you have 12 giant pot plants in the back of your log cabin, knock yourself out.
Discussing Mexico and US drug policy at the Council on Foreign Relations on February 23, 2009.
General McCaffrey as drug czar vehemently opposed medical marijuana; he accelerated the militarization of the Drug War in Columbia and Mexico; and during his time as drug czar, arrests for marijuana possession soared above those for harder drugs (See graph on page 3 of pdf). After years of failure to dent domestic demand for drugs, this chief drug warrior now admits he doesn’t care if drugs are legalized and that he sees nothing wrong with growing your own marijuana. It is incredible that someone could pursue the policies he did – and now state that he either didn’t or doesn’t strongly believe drugs should be illegal.
Two weeks ago, another group of former drug warriors produced a report describing the failure of America’s prohibitionist policy in Latin America and in the United States:
Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the expected results. We are farther than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs…
Current drug repression policies are firmly rooted in prejudices, fears and ideological visions…
[T]he available empirical evidence shows that the harm caused by [marijuana] is similar to the harm caused by alcohol or tobacco. More importantly, most of the damage associated with cannabis use – from the indiscriminate arrest and incarceration of consumers to the violence and corruption that affect all of society – is the result of the current prohibitionist policies.
From Drugs and Democracy, a report by César Gaviria (former president of Columbia), Ernesto Zedillo (former president of Mexico), Fernando Henrique Cardoso (former president of Brazil) and numerous other prominent Latin American figures released February 11, 2009.
As former Governor William Weld recently explained:
There’s no one so brave and wise as the politician who’s not running for office and who’s not going to be.
It is notable that so many of our prominent politicians reveal after they leave office that they don’t really agree with the premise of the War on Drugs – a war which is consuming billions of dollars, waging war on our citizenry, jailing a higher percentage of our citizens than any other nation, destabilizing our neighbors, competing with and undermining anti-terrorism measures, and making America less safe.
Instead, the best our current leaders offer is to soften the roughest edges of the Drug War on American citizens.
Obama has taken a number of sensible positions on Drug War issues – but he has not publicly acknowledged what most informed observers can see – that the War on Drugs has failed, is wasting money, and making us less safe. It is inconceivable that a reflective, informed policy-maker such as Obama does not realize this as well.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to tell all of the favor-seekers who came to impress upon him the importance of certain issues:
I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.
In other words, we must put pressure on Obama if the hopes of reform advocates and Obama administration insiders are to be realized.